“Thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path”
—Psalm 119:105 (KJV)
As I read my Bible, I remember my writing teacher pacing the tatty, wooden classroom floor. His aged voice croaked, “Details, students. Details! Vivid verbs. Well-chosen words. Show. Don’t tell!” When I read the Bible, I often want to shout at its writers “Details! Details! Details!!”
The meat is there—truth, instruction, prophesy—but so much of it leaves me wondering. So many details lost.
Now, I understand that I can infer by using what I already know and applying contextual clues, but still, I want to know absolutely. (If you read last week’s post, you know that I like “absolutes and certainties.”) I want those writers to compel me into the scenes. I want to see, hear, taste, touch, and smell the happenings through their words.
Take the ark, for example. I want the scribe to provide a cross-reference to a species list. I need to know exactly which animals were on that ark. I want notes from Noah’s journal (if he kept one). I want to know how those animals behaved. What problems occurred? How did Noah solve them? Then there’s Jonah and the “big fish.” What kind of fish? How big exactly? I need a description of the inside of that belly. I want a rich, six-senses narrative. When Jonah prayed to the Lord, did his voice echo inside an empty belly, or was Jonah swimming in . . . well . . . yesterday’s lunch?
How tall was Jesus? What did His voice sound like? How far was Mary and Martha’s house from Lazarus’ tomb? What were the merchants selling in the temple? What foods were spread on the banquet table? How did that huge crowd on the hillside hear Jesus when He taught them? Was it like the “telephone game” with the people in front passing the message to those gathered behind them? And the loaves and fishes. What kind of bread? Was the fish baked, broiled, fried, or (horrors) raw?
Trivia. Yes, I know it’s all trivia. Still, I desire the vivid pictures that words can paint. And then, I think this: God’s purpose is in everything. Too many details might veil the message. Sagacity might be buried in imaginary side trips. A struggling reader, more importantly a new Christian, might find it hard to separate the meat from the details. Perhaps God took pity on the poor scribes who dipped their pens in inkwells again and again writing His inspired words longhand. All good reasons for leaving out the particulars.
The Bible gets down to the real heart of issues. The prophet Jeremiah said, “Then the LORD stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me, ‘Behold, I have put My words in your mouth’.” (Jeremiah 1:9). And Timothy, in the New Testament, tells us, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16)
“My words”. “God-breathed scripture”. No matter what we desire, God gives us exactly what we need—and that includes the words in the Bible.